A modern farming campaign launched six years ago by the Anglican Church of Uganda to transform lives affected by the the Lord’s Resistance Army in northern Uganda has started paying off.

In 2018, the Anglican church started to implement a food security and environmental conservation project, targeting victims of the LRA attacks. The project — supported by the Anglican Aid Australia — aimed to empower local communities in northern Uganda to emerge out of the choking poverty brought about by the effects of the insurgency that lasted between 1986 and 2006.

The LRA is a Christian group operating in Uganda, South Sudan, Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Its stated goal includes the establishment of multi-party democracy in a Uganda bound by the Ten Commandments. The attacks, led by the notorious warlord Joseph Kony, ravaged northern Uganda, plunging the entire population into poverty.

In addition to destroying the economy, the war left hundreds of thousands of Ugandans dead in its wake as the LRA targeted the population and infrastructure, including schools, roads, markets, factories and model farms while looting businesses.

Data compiled by the Northern Uganda Social Action Fund, a government program established in 2003 to empower the victims of the war, revealed that by 2006, northern Uganda was in a dire humanitarian situation with an adult consumption expenditure at $11 per month and 70% of the population living in poverty.

It was that humanitarian crisis that attracted the intervention of the Anglican church and other organizations to northern Uganda, including the Ugandan chapter of World Vision International.

The Rev. Andrew Agaba, director of the Directorate of Household and Community Transformation within the Uganda Anglican Church, told Religion Unplugged that the church has used the project to promote specialized training in conservation farming techniques focused on sustainable methods to enhance soil fertility, moisture and texture since there was a declining trend in food production.

Through the project that focused on counties located in the Lokung and Mucwini in Kitgum Diocese, where agricultural hardships and environmental degradation had continued to threaten livelihoods after the war, farmers received quality seeds and hybrid animals such as pigs and cattle to rear.

Agaba said that the project divided 240 households in the two sub-counties into eight farmers’ groups that received the training.

“Through the project, we have built capacity that has enabled farmers to identify, prioritize and act to reduce poverty and hunger in addition to promoting good heathy,” he said.

As a result, the farmers — divided into groups — grew different types of food and crops, including soybeans, sunflowers and beans for both domestic use and sale, in addition to raising pigs, poultry and hybrid cattle supplied by the project. To the beneficiaries, the project has been a gift from God.

Before the project was put in place, Stella Akello, a resident of Lokung village, said finding food to eat — two meals a day at home — had been a dream.

“But today, we can afford to eat the two meals in a day, which has improved my family’s health,” she said.

With nearly three-quarters of Uganda’s population earning a living from agriculture and 25% of the country’s GDP coming from the sector, the church’s project is a step in the right direction. The HCT-run project is also good news for President Yoweri Museveni, who has been encouraging the church to join government efforts to fighting and eradicating poverty in the country.

In his recent appeal, Museveni urged all bishops who were present at last year’s consecration of the bishop-elect of Mukono Diocese, Enos Kitto Kagodo, to teach their flock how to work.

“I urge all the bishops present here to encourage Christians to be involved in programs aimed at eliminating poverty. Dioceses have plenty of land; let us use it to sustain ourselves,” he added.

Beyond the immediate benefits of the project, the beneficiaries have converted the farmers’ groups into Village Savings and Loan Associations, known as VSLAs, that have ensured financial stability for the communities, opening avenues for members to save, borrow and invest in various business ventures.

Ronald Odong, a member of another beneficiary from Mucwini village, said with the savings from his harvests and VSLA, he has been able to keep his four children in school without struggling to pay tuition fees. During the first rainy season last year, Odong planted soybeans that fetched him 1.7 million Ugandan shillings ($447), which he had never earned before the church’s intervention in 2018.

“Besides being able to pay school fees for my children, I can also keep some money for emergencies such as illness,” he said.

Agaba said the HCT's innovative project has emerged as a catalyst for positive change in rural communities across northern Uganda, not only improving food security but also boosting the economy.

“The Food Security and Environmental Conservation Project has made a significant impact in the 240 households in Kitgum Diocese,” Agaba said. “The increase in the incomes of the farmers from agriculture has empowered them to invest in better farm tools, educate their children and meet daily household needs.”

Yasiri J. Kasango, a journalism student at Uganda Christian University, contributed to this report.

John Semakula, an award-winning journalist and an alumnus of the Poynter Institute. He is a Religion Unplugged correspondent based in Mukono, Uganda.